As an editor you get to read synopses of nascent books across a wide variety of disciplines. A live topic in sociology and poli-sci is class. As in “the hidden injuries of.” So I’ve been grinding class in the machinery of my mind and the product always seems to be a question mark. Neither of my parents finished high school. My father worked, when he did, as a house painter. With three children and no money for childcare (and not even a GED), my mother was of the stay-at-home variety. I saw neither parent, and this would include my step-father, sit down to read a book for enjoyment. My mother read the Bible for consolation, and read us children’s books before bed, but literature wasn’t really part of our lives. I still think of myself as working class because that’s what I learned growing up. Working class with books.
I recently posted about a contract for my fifth book. The previous four have earned total royalties of well under four figures (combined). I’ve been asked why I do it. It’s not an expectation of my job. It takes up most of my time outside an unrelenting nine-to-five. Where does it get me? None of my books (so far) have sold more than 300 copies. I can see why—they’re either expensive or obscure (perhaps both). But I love books and reading and I want to give back. The truth is I don’t know why I do it. Working class folk wind down from work in different ways. Some of us do it by writing, I guess.
Learning, for me, works best if someone shows me how to do it. I expect that’s why I did so well as a teacher. Explaining things works for me. I still run into this all the time—people come at you in media res and suppose you’ll know what they’re talking about. At work, in extra-curricular organizations, just about everywhere. My working class response is “whoa, back up!” There’s no better place to start than the beginning. It’s folk wisdom, I suppose. In this world where everyone middle class is too busy, they don’t like to stop and tell you what you need to know to get started. I don’t know how to be middle class. One of my early jobs involved using a sledge-hammer. I’d never done it before and I learned by watching others. I’m not qualified to theorize about class, but I do know that by the end of the day that blisters will accompany any new task.